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Summer 2007, I remember standing at the edge of the crowd watching Ash on the Main Stage at Leeds Festival – Dave and Kirsty were in the midst of it but I was quite happy stood to one side (I’ve always been bit claustrophobic in that sort of situation). I stood watching a family – Mum, Dad and two kids enjoying the performance and had a real moment of “I can’t wait to do that, I can’t wait to be able to take my children to a festival“. Last weekend, some twelve years later I was living the dream with my own kids at Y Not Festival.
Don’t get me wrong, these three are no strangers to a festival but this was different. This was the first time I’d taken them to a proper music festival – a festival where children were welcome but weren’t the focus. Previously we’ve only attended family festivals where the music is an aside to entertaining the kids. I was excited about the line up – about taking them to see bands that we know and love – hearing songs that we sing together in the car, performed live on stage. Live music has been a huge part of my life for about 15 years now and that’s something I want to share with my kids.
Y Not Festival takes place in the Peak District (Pikehall, Derbyshire) a little over an hour from our home in Manchester and has been running for fourteen years. Hosting a range of Indie and Rock & Pop artists – this is a festival with music at it’s heart. The comedy, fairground rides and food are but a side note.
Should I take my kids to Y Not Festival?
Before we decided to take the kids to Y Not Festival I spoke to a few friends who’d been before – they told me they’d been on their own and loved it, that they’d also taken their four year old and felt it was a bit rowdy for him. I was conscious that this was going to be a festival of adults kicking back, drinking and enjoying their weekend and that perhaps it might not be the ideal environment for my kids – however, knowing that there was a dedicated family camping site and a children’s entertainment area, and that Ben, Chloe and Amy weren’t complete festival novices, we decided to give it a go. To make life easier we invited Aunty Custard and Uncle Chris along with us – upping the ratio of adults to children gave me peace of mind and also made the weekend a lot more fun for Dave & I! It’d been a long time since we’d been to a festival with Kirst and I’ve missed it.
Family Camping at Y Not Festival
The family camp site is thoughtfully situated close to the car park – meaning you don’t have to carry endless amounts of equipment for miles. It took us two hours and three trips to the car to get our tent pitched and everything we needed from the car – I dread to think how long this would have taken had we been camping on the main or VIP sites which were even further away. (A festival trolley is an absolute must!)
Shout out to the lovely lady who lent me her battery powered pump and saved us another trip to the car to blow up the mattress – definitely need to invest in one of those before our next festival!
It’s a long walk to the main festival site from the family campsite
Of course the downside of the family camp site being close to the car park is that it’s also then the furthest away from the main festival site – this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a long way to walk backwards and forwards if you’ve forgotten something or just want a rest / to shelter from the elements but it does mean that you’re further away from the noise and excitement when you’re child eventually decides they need to sleep! We took our festival trolley but found that it was a nightmare to get out around the other tents which had pitched nearby and Dave really didn’t want to be dragging it up and down the hill to the main festival site so we ended up managing without it. Amy is getting on for 6 now so with lots of rests during the day and a few carries we got by but I’d have struggled if she were younger.
Who can use the family campsite at Y Not Festival?
Entry to the family camp site requires a family camping wristband and this is checked by staff at the entrance to the site.
I’m not quite sure what the criteria are for family camping bar the need to buy a family camping ticket when you book – I had fully expected there to be some sort of age restrictions – eg families with children under 12 but we were really surprised by the ages of some of the campers on the family camping site – including groups of young teens. As you can imagine this meant that family camping wasn’t quite as quiet as we’d hoped but our kids are heavy sleepers for the most part and were shattered enough that any surrounding noises didn’t bother them!
The family camp site is really busy and it can be difficult to find a spot big enough for a large family tent!
When we arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, the family camping area was RAMMED – had we not arrived when we did I think we’d have struggled to find ourselves a spot as the area we were camping in filled up rapidly and our tent is pretty huge. I was panicking that someone would camp too close before we’d got fully pitched and that we’d run out of space! Luckily that wasn’t the case, however the tents being practically pitched on top of one another meant it was quite difficult to find a way in and out of our little corner of the campsite at times! If we were to go again I’d definitely look to arrive on the Thursday or at the very least much earlier on Friday.
What are the toilets and showers like at Y Not Festival?
The Y Not Festival website talks about “separate toilets to the rest of the campsites and showers just for families” – we were lucky enough to be fairly close to a block of toilets (I would guess 10 to 15 of them). These were kept pretty clean and regularly restocked with toilet roll and hand sanitiser.
The only showers I could see were right at the other end of the campsite – from what other people told me there was only eight of them and they were cold. You could pay for a hot shower on the main festival site at a cost of £10 a go and as Ben rightly exclaimed, “Who would be stupid enough to pay that?” Basically if you go to Y Not Festival be prepared for a wet wipe wash weekend and lots of alcohol gel!
Campfires and story-telling
The Y Not Festival website mentions an evening campfire with marshmallow toasting and early morning story-telling – I saw absolutely no evidence of this whatsoever! Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place but luckily I hadn’t mentioned it to the kids so they weren’t disappointed!
So that’s camping out of the way . . . now you want to know about the actual festival right?
As I said at the start of my post, taking the kids to a proper music festival is something I’ve been looking forward to for a really long time. I was nervous that they might get bored and nervous that the weather would spoil things for us but mostly I was just really excited for quality time with my family and my best friend.
The weather made the weekend hard work!
Let’s deal with this massive elephant in the room first off. There’s nothing better than listening to live music with your mates on a gloriously sunny day. But, we live in England and we just can’t guarantee that even in July we’ll get good weather for our festivals.
The weather was pretty insane last week – with the festival opening on Thursday to some of the hottest temperatures recorded in this country to dropping down to thirteen degrees and torrential rain through Saturday night.
Obviously it’s up to us as festival goers to be prepared for the elements – so we packed sun cream and sun hats, waterproofs and wellies! I had prepped the kids for the fact that the weather might not be great but that we’d dress for it and have a good time anyway. They have great waterproof coats and boots and I decided that they were best off wearing shorts as their legs would dry faster bare than in trousers! Mostly this worked well but I had failed to plan for the temperature dropping quite so much on an evening – we were warm enough in the tent but out and about watching bands the kids needed more layers and hats – definitely a lesson learned there for next time!
We spent quite a bit of time sheltering from the rain either in our tent, or in the VIP tent in the main festival area – this was something of a lifesaver with kids as it meant we could be warm and dry whilst still being entertained by a DJ or performers (watch right to the end of our vlog to see Chloe and Amy get fully involved in this!)
By Saturday night, the main paths into and out of the festival were absolutely bogging – the Y Not team were doing the best they could to keep the paths walkable with regular drops of bark chippings but it was fairly hopeless. This was a big factor in our decision to leave on Sunday morning – knowing that it was only going to get worse!
What is there for kids to do at Y Not Festival?
Whilst Y Not Festival is predominantly a music festival, they do have a dedicated family and children’s arena; Strawberry Fields which aims to provide activities for all ages.
Across the weekend Strawberry Fields played host to The Flying Seagull Project (a troupe of clowns, magicians, circus performers and musicians), Tootles and Nibs providing immersive theatre, Artful Dodgers offering a family friendly rave with art activities and finally graffiti and skateboarding sessions for tweens!
Access to Strawberry Fields is for children and their accompanying adults only, making it the ideal place to escape if you feel the main festival site is getting a little rowdy (though this isn’t something we found to be a problem).
I have to be honest and say we didn’t access any of the family specific programming at all – I think this is mostly because the weather was so bad that we only really ventured from the shelter of our tent or the VIP tent to see bands we loved – hanging out in the rain to do arts and crafts wasn’t too appealing. I actually didn’t spot the Strawberry Fields arena till the middle of Saturday afternoon.
The music is the main focus of the weekend
We had planned our weekend out around the main acts we wanted to see – knowing that attending the festival with kids we’d have to be quite flexible. We’d made a YNot Festival playlist on Spotify and had been listening to it in the run up to the festival so that the kids were familiar with the artists we were going to see. Amy was super excited to see Kate Nash (though only really to hear her sing Foundations) and Ben was looking forward to Two Door Cinema Club.
Although the kids have seen a few bands at Just So Festival before, this is nothing like on the scale of a proper music festival so the main stage was initially a little overwhelming for them. I hadn’t thought about just how loud the music would be and hadn’t taken ear defenders – this was a bit of a fail on my part and Chloe found the noise too much at times. Obviously we only ever stood on the periphery of the crowd – this meant we felt much safer and they could get a better view.
We started our weekend with Franz Ferdinand on the main stage which all three kids got really into and loved dancing and singing along to the songs they knew. It made a great start to the festival for us and I was hopeful that they were all going to have a great time.
We missed the end of Franz Ferdinand to head over to The Quarry for Kate Nash. I knew there was no way I wanted to be taking the kids right into the tent for this – having seen Kate Nash before, I was confident she’d be popular and I knew the sensible thing to do was to stand further back and listen rather than attempt to be able to see. This proved to be the right move – especially when Dave had to leave me to go and meet Kirst and Chris and show them where we were camped. I think this was the only time I found myself anxious about being at the festival with three kids – the area outside the tent got really busy and I was conscious to make sure I kept them in front of me at all times to protect them from being bumped into. Lots of love to the lady stood next to me who chatted to us and helped me to keep the kids safe and comfortable. I think the lady who said to me “Fair play to you for bringing them love, if my nine year old was here right now he’d be sh*tting himself” probably summed it up nicely! Dave, Kirst and Chris made it back to us just in time for Foundations – which was a real highlight of the festival for me – watching the kids beaming and singing along to one of their favourite songs made my night.
Friday night closed with Elbow on the main stage. Amy managed the first few tracks but by 10pm she’d had enough so Kirst and I took her back to the tent leaving Ben & Chloe to enjoy the rest of the set with Dave & Chris. I was gutted to miss One Day Like This. Dave said Elbow was probably one of his favourite moments of the weekend – watching them sing with Ben sat on his shoulders.
As Colette has mentioned the setting up of the tent was hard work and by the time I’d made my third trip to the car and back again I was exhausted and dripping with sweat. I stank and wanted a shower and a lie down but neither was forthcoming. I’d pretty much decided on the second trip that I wasn’t doing this again but I hadn’t mentioned it to Colette at this point. Anyway by the time that Elbow rolled around I was in a much better mood (well oiled) and they were really putting on a show. I was taking turns putting Ben and Chloe on my shoulders and they were loving it. At one point I said to Ben to look at the light show from the stage and he said to me “I love you Dad” with genuine joy in his voice. I will never tire of hearing those words. My mind was completely changed by that experience and it made all the earlier sweat and hassle worth it. Moments like that are priceless and worth cultivating if you can. I’ve thought of that moment, and others of the weekend, whenever my back has hurt over the past week and it has made me smile every time.
I think the last time I saw Reverend and the Makers live was Leeds Festival 2007. They were super sweary at Y Not Festival but we loved their set – it had stopped raining and the kids were high on churros so there was lots of singing and dancing! Two Door Cinema Club weren’t on till 10pm so the kids were flagging, powered by more churros and ignoring the rain, we managed to get through the first few tracks.
The Y Not App is a stroke of genius
Most festivals sell you expensive lanyards with running times on – but YNot Festival offers you the opportunity to download an app with all the information on it – not only does this mean that it’s always to hand, but it’s also up to to date. Throughout the weekend we got updates about changes to running times or additions to the line up. I found it really helpful to be able to tick the acts I wanted to see and get a list of my favourites, meaning I could check for clashes and plan our weekend.
Of course the app only works if you have access to the internet so for those festival goers who were struggling for network it wasn’t ideal but for those of us sitting pretty on EE it was a winner!
Festival Food at Y Not
Our usual festival food routine is to have breakfast at our tent (usually bacon butties or pain au chocolat), carry snacks in my bag and then eat at the festival for dinner and tea. Apart from anything else, carrying food for multiple meals and keeping it cold is hard going so we find this routine works well for us.
We all know the festival food is expensive – you’re a sitting target and businesses are going to make the most of that. I don’t mind so much if the food is good quality and we enjoy eating it but we found the food at Y Not Festival was a bit hit and miss.
The kids basically lived on chips and churros for the weekend (which they weren’t going to complain about!) Dave and I had a distinctly average Mac n Cheese at a cost of a million pounds a pot – I exaggerate, it was about £10 and definitely not worth the money. Dave and Chris enjoyed filled Yorkie Puds for dinner one night and Kirst and I hit the jackpot at a stall selling loaded nachos / fries – easily the tastiest meal I’d had all weekend.
Drinking water was in short supply
There was a distinct lack of running water for refilling drinks bottles on both the festival site and the campsite. The website clearly states that you can take sealed bottles of water or empty drinks bottles onto the festival site for drinking water but we didn’t see any free drinking water available all weekend – had the 35 degree temps of Thursday carried on this would have been hell on earth. As it was we managed to make sure the kids had plenty to drink at the tent and topped them up with the odd can of pop.
Aside from the health and safety implications of not having access to fresh water in a heatwave, when most festivals are trying to discourage single use plastic, this was really disappointing.
Rubbish and recycling at YNot
There were plenty of bins on the main festival site and I was pleased to see for the most part these were being well used – as was the cup return scheme with kids collecting in used beer cups to be cashed in at 10p a time – the only downside to this was that they could only be exchanged from 9pm on Friday night which meant carrying arm fulls of them around! (I don’t think this was well advertised either – I only knew about the exchange as a result of chatting to other festival goers).
On the campsite itself the bins were a bit more sparse and were quickly over-flowing. By Sunday morning they were swamped with damaged equipment which hadn’t survived the storms of Saturday night.
I was really disappointed to see that bar the cup return scheme, there was no focus on recycling whatsoever. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Timber and Just So but I had expected that at least on the campsites there would be opportunities to sort rubbish for recycling rather than dumping it all into one big bin. Perhaps something for Y Not Festival to work on in future years.
How well-organised is YNot Festival?
Any of the staff we came into contact with were lovely – there just didn’t seem to be enough of them. There was a general thread of disorganisation running through the weekend from ridiculously long queues in the baking heat on Thursday to nobody organising the exits when people were trying to escape the poor weather and leave on Sunday morning. We saw staff at the entrance to the family campsite checking wristbands but never saw anyone patrolling the camp site. The majority of staff seemed to be focused on searches – searching into the campsites and then again into the festival sites. Obviously from a safety aspect I was pleased to see this but it was frustrating at times.
As I’ve mentioned, the Y Not Festival app was a really great way of staying up to date with what was going on on the festival site but for those festival goers who were struggling for battery or network coverage, I do think there was a lack of signage around the site.
When it came to trying to leave the site there was minimal signage and no staff directing people – the pick up area seemed to be in the same place as the main exit causing all sorts of traffic issues. I guess they can be forgiven for not expecting quite so many people to try and leave first thing Sunday morning and perhaps the exits were better manned later in the day / on Monday morning.
Would we go back to YNot Festival?
I honestly don’t know – we had a great weekend but I think the niggles around organisation might be enough to put us off returning. That said, at less than £100 for a Tier One adult family camping ticket, perhaps I can get past that! £200 for our whole family to attend a festival can’t be sniffed at and it’s all the kids have talked about for the last week! If you could guarantee me sunshine . . .
Under 12s can attend Y Not Festival free of charge however they are not guaranteed entry without a Child ticket so you do need to make sure you add this to your booking. Festival goers age 15 or under must be accompanied by adults aged over 21.